Sunday, March 7, 2010

Response to Cell Phone Study

"When it comes to privacy and accountability, people demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else." -- David Brin, American sci-fi writer

Girl in the blue shirt broke up with her girlfriend, very tall Maryland guy “CAN’T HEAR YOU,” drunk girl walking home “doesn’t need you to come get me, I’m FINE,” guy leaving my COMM class apparently really hates our teacher, and loud girl in the library does not enjoy when people, namely me, politely ask her to shut up or go talk somewhere else. (There are shhhh! Signs everywhere. It’s a library, what did she expect? I’m not trying to be the library police, I just want to study. She might’ve been annoyed, but I was thanked by several people on my way back to my seat.)

How did I learn all these things? It really was not that hard. I listened. I walked around campus for the last week and I eavesdropped on every single phone call I passed. Mind you, I was forced into eavesdropping on most of them because most people

A. Don’t care how loud they’re talking

B. Don’t know how loud they’re talking

C. Really want me to hear their conversation.

This week, in JOUR289i, Info3pt0, we had to read a study titled “Cellphones in public: social interactions in a wireless era.” The study identifies cell phone users as singles and withs, singles being those who are alone, and withs being those who are accompanied by at least one other person. The majority of the people I noticed on campus were singles, but my observation of my friends’ cell phone usage qualified each of us as a with, since we were together.

(I believe that these, along with other terms like normative cell phone behaviors and caller hegemony were easy to understand, and largely correct.)

Although this study was written five years ago, and the world of cell phone technology changes weekly, the validity of the study is still relevant. While phones have changed, most phone-behaviors have not. The study discussed nonverbal communication while talking on the phone (with the caller and with the other person they’re with.) I noticed this quite often in my observations, and many of the motions seemed to be frustration – waving hands, shaking head, rolling eyes – and these motions were the same for both singles and withs. I also noticed myself engaging in “other activities” when my friends were on the phone. I would check my phone, read the Diamondback, pick up my laptop, drink my coffee – something to occupy me while I was essentially being ignored. Interestingly – all of my friends turned away while talking on the phone, avoiding eye contact like the study suggested (another reason I believe the results are still very valid.)

This was an interesting week for me to do this study, since my phone is more or less on the fritz. My own cell phone behaviors were very sporatic—since my phone likes to turn off whenever it pleases, so my calls were often interrupted, cut short, or prevented altogether. This led to many frustrated nonverbals by me, in addition to a bunch of “Seriously!?” and “This is driving me crazy” and a few other choice words after each ended communication attempt.

I personally have never witnessed anyone using a cell phone to cheat. I have noticed texting during classes, I myself text during class, and I’ve even noticed texting during exams, which I can’t do since I need to focus on one thing at a time. I also notice people playing games on their cell phones in class. One of my friends has Tetris downloaded on their iPhone and I’ve seen her get a new high score several times in COMM class (the same class that I caught the boy talking on the phone about how much he hated it…hmm.) Another cell phone behavior I notice a lot is people using their cell phone as a flashlight. People drop things, and everyone pulls out a phone. People can’t see where the last step is, somebody’s right there with their phone. I do it too, but my battery life just is not what it used to be, so I try to stray away from that action.

All in all my studies of people’s cell phone behavior were interesting. I certainly heard some conversations that I did not care for, did not care about, and definitely would have lived if I hadn’t heard them. A lot of the time I am amazed at just how far people are willing to go on their cell phones—people have conversations that I would not even begin to have in public, especially on a college campus where any number of people you may know could very well be in your immediate vicinity.

In the end I guess we’re all guilty. We’ve all done it sometime, right?

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